TMCnet Feature
June 29, 2021

How are technology and robotics helping to enhance law enforcement

Advancements in available technologies and robotics have started to transform several industries in recent years. Whether that’s through automation or new capabilities afforded by implementing specific tech solutions, both areas have unlocked new opportunities for making industries more efficient and effective.

As innovative new technologies and ideas enter the realm of possibility, law enforcement is usually among the top fields of consideration. By applying robotics and tech in the right ways, policing can be improved and continue to keep society safe using these advancements.

Adapting to protect people in a changing world

The priority of all law enforcement agencies is to keep society safe from harm. Policing is still centred around the core principles of duty, integrity, sacrifice in the line of service. But, as society has shifted and changed into what it is today, law enforcement has also had to adapt in order to maintain this safety.

Technology has given us a wide range of new ways in which we can interact with the world around us. Within the last 20 years, new devices have emerged which allow us to contact practically anyone from anywhere – including people we’ve never met. We can order protects and services directly to our homes, delivered by strangers or even via drones in the not-too-distant future.

These are what law enforcement agencies need to take into consideration and factor into their roles. New forms of crime are developed to exploit these new technologies, so law enforcement has to form defences and procedures to protect communities and society at large.

Synthesising technology and policing

Integrating technology or robotics into the various roles of law enforcement goes beyond simply adding a new gadget onto the uniform. True innovation is about understanding how processes can be made more efficient by technology, or how automation can allow officers to refocus their efforts into more productive areas.

When technology is applied in the right ways, it can enhance the role of law enforcement to be more impactful and provide greater insights for performing essential duties. We can see how technology has already provided additional benefits to law enforcement with previous additions:

  • Databases of information allow law enforcement to automatically search things like fingerprints against previously catalogued sets.
  • GPS data from mobile phones and even some cars can be utilized by law enforcement to show how a suspect was in proximity of a crime scene.
  • Home alarm systems can automatically contact local law enforcement that a trespasser has broken into a person’s home.
  • Bomb defusal robots have allowed officers to keep a safe distance from high-risk situations whilst being able to interact with devices in a precise manner.

These examples should give you an idea of how previous technological and robotic applications within law enforcement have not only kept the public safe, but also officers themselves.

Future innovations within law enforcement

Although some of these innovations may be on the cusp of becoming a reality, we’ve explored a range of possibilities for how robotics and technology could be applied in the future. These new integrations could greatly improve the available resources to law enforcement and keep people safer than previously possible.

IoT devices and monitoring the surroundings

Keeping an eye on the environment proves to be an intensive job for law enforcement operating within a local area. Investigating crimes previously relied mostly on witnesses remembering details or spending hours tracking down what information happened to be available. Law enforcement can’t be everywhere at any given moment in order to capture crucial details – but technology can assist with this.

By implementing smart sensors in key locations, these IoT devices can help to log crucial information and allow for virtual patrols by regularly scanning the local areas. Historic data can also be checked to see whether crimes happened to be recorded by these devices. This additional raw data that officers can access would mean that investigations can potentially be streamlined and respond to incidents which haven’t been raised externally.

Augmented reality and assistance in the field

In recent years, law enforcement officers have been issued with body cameras in order to monitor interactions while carrying out their duties. This is something to also instil further trust within communities that officers will comply with the necessary regulations that guide their actions. However, as technology can be implemented in smaller and smaller packages, we could see the introduction of smart glasses as well.

While body cameras simply record the environments law enforcement operate within, augmented reality (AR) glasses can interpret these surroundings and provide officers with useful information. There have been early models of these smart glasses in development for some time, but the applications within policing could be revolutionary. If responding to a call, law enforcement could be fed information about residents and potential suspects in real-time to assist officers making decisions on the scene.

Maintaining public safety remotely

The many applications of drones have naturally made their way into the realm of law enforcement. A number of agencies have already invested into drones and the supporting software in order to increase their capabilities, including:

  • Monitoring large scale events
  • Delivering supplies to law enforcement in the field
  • Recording information to transfer back to police stations
  • Aerial photography at incidents to get further insights into a crime scene

These advanced robotic devices don’t require officers to be out on patrol in order to gather information. A team can control drones from a central location and coordinate other officers using the wealth of data that drones can provide.

Other police robots have seen an increase in usage which could see them become a standard part of practically all law enforcement agencies across the country. As they’re well-equipped with technology that enhances their capability to pick up, carry and move objects from a safe distance, it makes sense that robotics can be brought in to deal with delicate situations.

They can act as a stand-in for officers in high-risk situations that could endanger life during stops, arrests, or similar where a suspect is considered armed and dangerous. While these robots aren’t autonomous, the day where robots can assist with police on patrols is potentially getting closer.

Balancing the benefits with the concerns

With more technology capabilities being implemented within law enforcement agencies, there are more concerns around the ethical implications surrounding privacy. An over-reliance on some technologies could also lead to issues if that technology doesn’t function as intended, leading to false positives when identifying suspects.

Ultimately, an increase in surveillance capabilities impacts the wider privacies of society at scale. The important thing is ensuring that people feel protected by the inclusion of more technology within law enforcement, rather than having it detract from trust. Using technology responsibility is crucial and should be a guiding hand when implementing it within any sector.

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